Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Starter Guide

Contributed by DJMMT

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably aware that last week Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope (SoH) released for the Nintendo Switch. I have actually been playing the game since before launch, though not as much as I would have liked, given my busy schedule. Instead of a review, I thought it would be better if I created a starting tips guide for new players. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope is a tactical turn-based RPG, but it is very different from its predecessor title and other tactical turn-based RPGs. For starters, SoH doesn’t have a grid system like traditional tactical RPGs. It also doesn’t have fixed character development. There are a number of things that you should know going into the game for a smoother, more comfortable experience. So with that, here’s my top nine Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope starter tips. Why nine instead of 10? One for each of the playable characters in the game.

1. There is NO Best Character

SoH has nine playable characters and 30 different Sparks to choose from. Each character has its own strengths and weaknesses. Sparks are the equivalent of assist trophies in Smash Bros. but they do not have a finite amount of uses, and can absolutely turn the tide of battle. Every encounter, once you’ve progressed through the first few battles of the game, will allow you to take three characters and three Sparks into battle. At the beginning of every battle, you can easily switch out the characters and Sparks you’d like to use for no penalty. You can even re-spec your level-based character development points at will with no costs or penalties. Also note that XP is cumulative for all characters, so you don’t have to worry about maximizing XP for your mains, should you choose to have them.

You will be tempted to favor the same characters and possibly Sparks for every battle, as that’s how many games with multiple party members have conditioned us to play. But that is absolutely not the best way to play SoH. The truth is that there are no best characters in the game. Instead, you should look for the best team and combination of Sparks for the given battle and not be too lazy to make changes. Some battles will make more sense with long-range attacks, while others will prioritize close range and dashing. You also need to take into account your Sparks. As you unlock more, new strategies will come into play that can drastically change your effectiveness and approach to a battle. You can retry battles an unlimited number of times with no penalties, so don’t be afraid to experiment and fail. No matter who the character is, I can guarantee you that there is a use case where they’re the ideal team member to have in your squad. The same goes for Sparks.

2. Death is Not the End

SoH is not Fire Emblem. There is no permadeath, or even any permanent repercussions for losing a battle. What this means is that you are allowed to experiment and take risks. If you want to try something out, you should. If you think you might lose but could possibly win if you use an item, there’s no punishment if you use the item and still fail. When you retry the battle, you’ll still have that item. If you win a battle and one or more of your characters died, they will revive at the end of the battle and get the same amount of XP as all the other characters. They will not revive with full health, but the battle will have been successfully completed and you will not have lost anything in the process.

Unlike with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, there is (currently) no scoring system for battles. Either you win the battle, or you lose. There are no ranks to worry about, so there’s no real reason to be afraid of letting a character die if it means ultimately winning the battle. SoH invites you to embrace risk and enjoy the game however you’d like to play it.

3. Use Your Tacticam

SoH has one of the most convenient and accessible tactical camera assistants (Tacticam) I’ve ever seen in the genre. At any time during the battle, as well as before the battle starts, you can pull up the Tacticam and learn so much important information about the battle. At face value, it shows enemy placement. This is important, but only scratches the surface of how useful the Tacticam actually is. It can also tell you enemy weaknesses and resistances, as well as some of their behavioral traits. What I actually think is super useful and often overlooked about the Tacticam is the ability to show and lock enemy attack range. Every action in the game has a maximum range. Whether it’s movement, attacks, reaction attacks, or items, there is a limited distance on the map that the action can reach. The Tacticam will not only show you how far an enemy’s range is, but also let you lock it on the screen during gameplay.

Say you’re facing an enemy with long-range capabilities. By locking the Tacticam’s range information for that enemy, you can always be sure that you’re out of the line of fire. You will want to overlook the Tacticam while you play to save time, but it can absolutely make the difference between victory and defeat.

4. Weaknesses & Resistances Matter

SoH refers to elemental effects as “Super Effects”. This includes any type of non-standard damage such as burn, frost, ooze, splash, and so on. It is so important that you consider weaknesses and resistances when approaching encounters. Exploiting weaknesses can monumentally change the course of a battle. Not just because of the extra damage it deals, but also because of the effects that can be applied to enemies as a result. For instance, burn doesn’t just cause fire damage. It also adds the burn effect on impact. Burn causes those affected by it to run around randomly, and they pass burn to any enemy’s or allies they come into contact with while undergoing the burn. When a group of enemies is clumped together, hitting one with burn can potentially damage all of them. It’s fair to say that there are battles that you can win by taking advantage of weaknesses that you otherwise wouldn’t be strong enough to win.

On the flip side, resistances can be absolutely devastating. Your tried-and-true elemental strategy means nothing when you face an enemy that’s resistant to it. Even your base damage will plummet if you hit an enemy with an attack they are resistant to. Make sure you don’t accidentally activate a Spark as a reflex and then attack a resistant enemy with it.

5. Don’t be too Stingy with Your Items

There is a cliché among RPG players about hoarding items for later and then beating the game without ever using them. You don’t really need to do that in SoH. While you certainly shouldn’t waste items needlessly, the game is very generous, even on the hardest difficulty, about helping the player obtain items without having to spend coins. You can find lots of items scattered around the world. Many battles give you items as one of the rewards for winning. You don’t need to shy away from using a mushroom to restore health if you need it. As long as you play smart, you should not feel bad about using items. Also, coins are unlimited, so if you do need to buy more items, there’s no reason not to.

Coins have a limited number of uses. Certain in-game challenges cost coins to participate it, but it’s few and far between. Mostly you will use coins to heal your team before battles and to buy items. There’s no reason to blow all your coins on pointless items you don’t need, but using them to refill your HP when low isn’t going to destroy the flow of the game.

6. Take Advantage of Rabbid Peach’s Healing Ability

Even though coins are plentiful and can be used to heal your team at the beginning of each battle, I’m still a bit stingy with them. I try to avoid pay healing as much as possible. I already know other players that are doing no heal runs. Early on in the game, the only way to heal your characters without items or spending coins is with Rabbid Peach’s healing ability. She is the only member of the starting five playable characters that has the innate ability to heal other team members. Do not waste opportunities to take advantage of this. Assuming you get a hang of the strategic gameplay and don’t rush forward without building up your team’s level, you will come across many easy battles that can be handled without taking any damage. These are the perfect opportunity to heal teammates. When going into these battles, use Rabbid Peach and two other characters that aren’t at full health. Start the battle by using Rabbid Peach’s healing technique. It’s a great way to manage your HP, which does not automatically regenerate between battles.

Note that there are additional ways to regenerate HP without items or spending coins, but they require you to unlock them in the skill tree for each character.

7. Synergy is King

My favorite part about SoH is synergy in combat. There are so many different effects and techniques with various outcomes when used effectively. It’s best when these effects are tied together with character strengths to create chain reactions. The simplest version of this is by using reaction commands. Reaction commands are attacks that characters use in reaction to enemy’s moving within their target range. One combo I use a lot is to attack an enemy with an effect that will make them move, such as burn or splash while another character, usually Mario or Luigi, has a reaction command primed. This will cause the enemy to take damage multiple times. You can even set it up where two different reaction attacks will hit the same enemy in the same turn. If you combine this with an effect like splash, it's very likely that you will knock the enemy off the level, dealing even more damage.

Learning how best to combine your characters, Sparks, and the order you use them in is the true mastery of the game. Enemies that would have otherwise been difficult and taken multiple turns of attacks to bring down can be reduced to nothing in a single turn when synergy is used effectively.

8. Don’t Rush to the Next World

Many will probably disagree with me, but I think the best course of action is to work to fully complete each world as you reach them, rather than skipping ahead and coming back later. While there are certain things you can’t do the first time you visit a world, you can do most things on the first visit. For instance, you can clear all of world one, on the hardest difficulty, on your first visit, save for one challenge. That one requires you to unlock more Sparks before you can access it. But all the other quests in world one can be completed without having to leave the planet first.

That being said, there many enemies that mirror your level for difficulty. So while you will get stronger by sticking around and focusing on completing the game, you should not feel bad about moving forward, if you want to prioritize unlocking more characters sooner. You can backtrack to previous worlds at any time. Note that many Sparks are found by completing side quests, so there is a benefit above experience points to staying on the same planet and doing everything possible before moving on.

9. The Spin Move

This is a simple but really important tip. Throughout the game, you will find little swirls on the ground. These are coin drops. All you have to do to unlock them is spin around the joystick a few times. It seems obvious, but when I played the pre-release build I never figured it out on my own. Someone else told me, so now I’m telling you. Missing these is a lot of coins lost over time.

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t get lazy on coin collecting. Coins spawn and respawn everywhere. Stacks of them can be hidden behind buildings, in little hidden caves, and in other hidden spaces. They’re scattered on roads and paths and even hidden in trees and bushes. Take the time to collect coins whenever possible. Especially if you do plan on using the coins to heal function often.

Those are my top nine starting tips for Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. It’s a great game that’s loads of fun. It often feels more like a puzzle game than a tactical RPG, and that’s not a bad thing. If you would prefer a more traditional turn-based tactical RPG, I highly recommend Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle as well.

XPG Terrence

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